The mobile market war seems ready to explode in 2013. Many companies, some you may recognize and some you won’t, are working on new mobile operating systems to challenge the two dominate operating systems. Each company has their own strategy, but the combined sales Android and iOS take up of 90% of the mobile market, with Android in the lead on smartphones and Apple leading in the tablet market. Can these development teams succeed in an area where even Microsoft has failed to make significant headway?

Top Contenders

One of the biggest contenders to watch is Mozilla’s Firefox OS, which is based on their highly popular web browser and very mobile-web friendly. Mozilla has some big names behind them, in Europe, China and the United States. Ubuntu is working on an OS that is Linux-based and will be compatible with phones that support the Android OS, but the program won’t run Android mobile apps.

One of the most interesting unknown contenders will be a yet unnamed operating system based on the MeeGo system that Noika abandoned in favor of Windows phones. The new OS is being developed by a company in Finland and has the support of a lot of Chinese manufacturers. Last, but by no means least, Samsung is developing Tizen OS, which will support Intel apps as well as Firefox OS apps. Considering the popularity of Samsung’s phones, they may have the best chance.

The Biggest Hurdle

Rolling out phones with these new operating systems will be the easy part. The more difficult part will be in getting app developers to embrace these new platforms. Although Firefox eventually plans to roll out its own app store, none of the other developers has plans to support Android or iOS apps. Considering the lead-time that Google and Apple and the size of their respective app markets, it seems unlikely that any other company is going to be able to catch up.

Even if one or more of these new operating systems wins some support from the app developer community, that doesn’t mean the public has any interest in giving up apps they are already familiar with and have come to trust. Additionally, for most companies, the cost of developing both Android and iOS is significantly high enough that they are not likely to be interested in supporting every new platform that comes out; some will inevitably get knocked out of the running.

To be fair, while many of the companies coming out with mobile operating systems this year may offer better features, they are starting out at a serious disadvantage. No matter how good their HTML5-based web capabilities are, they need the support of a social media companies like Facebook and Twitter in order to provide apps their customers will find truly useful and enjoy. As of this writing, none of the companies developing new mobile operating systems has announced any significant software partnerships that will make them truly competitive with “the big two.”

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